The Cross Amid the Crisis

Sep 18, 2021 | The Catholic Thing

The following is adapted from a speech given on September 15 to the Society of Catholic Social Scientists upon reception of their annual Pius XI Award for Building Up a True Social Science. The event was co-sponsored by the Catholic University of America’s Sociology Department and the CUA Institute for Human Ecology.

Thinking about what to share today, one sentence kept coming to mind by novelist extraordinaire Evelyn Waugh. It appeared in a disarmingly casual account that he gave to a newspaper in 1930, about the reasons for his conversion to the Catholic Church. Waugh summarized that momentous decision in twenty-eight neat words. He said, “In the present phase of European history the essential issue is no longer between Catholicism, on one side, and Protestantism, on the other, but between Christianity and Chaos.”

Christianity, or Chaos: In a sense, the choice between the two has been perpetual since the Resurrection. But to say that it’s ever thus, and to throw up our hands before the world, is a dodge – especially for Catholics, especially now, in a moment when many are tempted to do just that. We’re called to read the signs of the times, not to whine about them. So let’s start by staring this thing in the face, and setting out the distinctive characteristics of Chaos in this moment — our moment. What can we see?

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